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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls: Final Score 2-1 as Sloppy Lions Get Swept

It wasn’t the sharpest night for the Lions, who just couldn’t find the final bit of quality in losing their second game to the Red Bulls in 2021.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City will be happy to have seen the last of the New York Red Bulls this regular season. The Lions (6-2-3, 21 points) were sloppy and wasteful in a 2-1 loss to New York (5-5-1, 16 points) at Exploria Stadium, getting swept in the two-game season series by identical scorelines.

The Lions could have climbed to the top of the Eastern Conference with a win after New England dropped points, but the team conceded a late goal and missed a first-half Mauricio Pereyra penalty. Chris Mueller’s second-half goal tied the match after an early Cristian Casseres Jr. goal put the visitors on top, but Fabio Gomes Netto’s winner late sent the wet crowd of 19,009 home unhappy.

“Obviously sad with the result but with our heads very high with the effort of the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But we accept it. I think we need to move forward. It’s a quick turnaround with a game in the middle of the week.”

It was New York’s first road win of the season.

Pareja started Brandon Austin in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Junior Urso and Andres Perea started in central midfield with Pereyra and Mueller feeding the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike up top.

The Red Bulls took advantage of an early mistake by Orlando by doing what they do — scoring a transition goal off a defensive end turnover. The ball cycled to Casseres Jr. on the right and the defense overplayed him to the outside, so he cut back inside and curled a ball into the far side of the net to make it 1-0 in the sixth minute.

Carlos went down in the 10th minute while Pereyra was winning a free kick near the left corner of the box. He signaled for a substitute but Rodrigo Schlegel wasn’t ready yet so he stayed on for the set piece. Carlos scored on the set piece but was called for a foul. He went down after the call and was subbed off officially in the 14th minute.

The Lions started getting more of the ball and creating some opportunities but couldn’t quite cash in. Mueller smashed a shot in the 16th minute that was heading in but Carlos Coronel made a good diving save to keep Orlando scoreless. Two minutes later, Halliday fired just wide off a corner kick. Pereyra fired on target in the 26th minute but it was no trouble for Coronel. Seconds later, Mueller fired a shot just over the bar.

The best chance to tie the match in the first half came late in the half when Pereyra drew a foul in the box for an Orlando penalty. The Uruguayan took the penalty himself but Coronel guessed correctly to his left and Pereyra’s shot was at an easy height for the goalkeeper to make the stop.

The Lions got one more good look in stoppage time, with Dike heading over the bar on a good cross into the area. Despite getting some good looks, the Lions went to the break trailing.

The Red Bulls out-shot Orlando 7-6 in the first half, although the Lions had more on goal (3-2). Orlando held more possession (58.6%-41.4%), had more corners (3-1) and passed more accurately, but the passing wasn’t terribly accurate despite the Lions’ 78.2%-73.3% advantage, especially in the final third.

Orlando’s second half didn’t start much better than the first, as the Red Bulls had a lot of possession in the attacking third and the Lions struggled to accurately play the ball out of their own half. A giveaway by Perea in the 50th minute could have been fatal but the shot went over the bar.

The first good look of the second half for Orlando came in the 53rd minute when Urso slipped Dike in behind the defense. Dike tried to slip it under Coronel, who came off his line and made the save and it just didn’t look like the Lions’ night at that point.

It was a New York mistake that let Orlando back in the game. Defender Sean Nealis decided to try to dribble the ball past Dike, but the Orlando forward had no trouble dispossessing him and poking the ball to an onrushing Pereyra. The Uruguayan found Mueller on his left and Cash sent a perfect shot under the bar to tie the game at 1-1 in the 59th minute.

After the Orlando goal the game settled into a bit of a stalemate for about the next 10 minutes. New York looked the likelier side to score the second goal as the Lions continued to make silly mistakes in possession, forcing passes and trying to split double (and sometimes triple) teams against the Red Bulls’ press.

Patryk Klimala fired just inches wide in transition in the 72nd minute.

Orlando’s best chance to take the lead came in the 79th minute when Nani got the ball on the left and fired a shot on target. The captain’s chance was too close to Coronel, who made the save and then started the play the other way for the winning goal.

The Lions’ two center backs closed together to stop Klimala, but in doing so, Schlegel left Fabio to Halliday while helping Jansson, who appeared to be in good position. Klimala was was able to get a pass through to Fabio, who held off Halliday and beat Austin to make it 2-1.

“I think it was a counter for them, it was a quick transition,” Schlegel said. “And as they were bringing the ball up, they sort of came into the middle and (were) trying to play into the middle, so I stepped up to try and cover, and they were able to get it behind me and, frankly, their number nine just finished really well.”

“On the last goal I would say that it’s a lack of coordination when we have to step and cover,” Pareja said. “They don’t go around much, but through the middle they put a lot of numbers, so as you have to be concentrated on those small passes and short diagonals. And that’s why they found that goal. They made a good movement there where we were off, and in no time they scored that second goal.”

Orlando wasn’t threatening much in the final 10 minutes due to careless passes and poor decision-making. Dike ignored a run by substitute Silvester van der Water on one attack opportunity and Nani ignored an outlet pass to Benji Michel in his own half in stoppage time and lost the ball when three Red Bulls converged on him. Uri Rosell got a last gasp shot attempt off deep in stoppage time but missed the net.

New York out-shot Orlando 18-13, but the Lions got more on target (6-4). Corners were even at four apiece, with Orlando holding an advantage in possession (55.2%-44.8%) and the Red Bulls edging the Lions in passing accuracy (75.4%-76.1%).

“Obviously disappointed,” Austin said after the loss. “We wanted to keep that winning streak going. Tough game. I think there were chances where we definitely had opportunities to get more out of the game. Credit to New York, they came up with a game plan and they executed it quite well.”

The Lions will try to bounce back Wednesday night on the road at the Chicago Fire.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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